Magazine article Marketing

When Crisps Go Critical

Magazine article Marketing

When Crisps Go Critical

Article excerpt

For a moment, when the schoolkids ad became a scandal, it looked as though it had all gone wrong for the dreamteam alliance between superhero Gary Lineker and supersnack Walkers crisps. Until, with one PR bound, they were free.

KP Foods and Golden Wonder must have hoped that arch-rival snacks brand Walkers had scored an own goal over the Gary Lineker affair, but they were sadly disappointed. Despite a carpeting by the ITC for Mr Nice Guy's crisp-pinching activities with small boys in the recent TV campaign, the UK's biggest-selling crisps brand survived - and thrived.

When the story broke, Hill & Knowlton, Walkers' PR, activated a common-sense response, paused for prayer ... and the UK media began to rise up in defence of the hero. With a gentle PR nudge, The Sun got its background for a front-page story attacking the "daft" complainants, and ITN re-ran the ad in News at Ten's light-hearted endpiece. Then news of Walkers' April Fool spoof, with Des Lynam as a nun, was leaked to all and ad agency BMP DDB Needham hastily rescheduled it to run the following night.

A meticulously planned PR campaign could not have pitched it better. The issue was defused; Walkers notched up priceless free exposure. But H&K didn't leave it there. It's a sign of the agency's hard-nosed approach - take risks if the rewards are worth winning - that one of the Disgusteds who complained to the ITC has been roped into shooting a future Lineker commercial, and a photocall arranged.

This is part of the advertising/sales promotion/PR circus which, over the past 18 months, has refocused the company as Walkers Snack Foods, launched newly packaged and reformulated products, and pushed the brand into the northeast and Scotland.

While television takes around 40% of a current [pounds]10m marketing budget, last year Doritos was unveiled on the strength of PR alone. The UK product hit the shelves before the US-sourced ad campaign was ready. "PR had to create the news," says Karen Moyse, deputy managing director of H&K's consumer marketing division. "But you can't plan quirky events too far in advance. It's got to be topical."

H&K's brief was to grab the crucial late-teenage market for a type of snack that had previously been pitched at - and priced for - older buyers. …

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